Korea’s two English Premier League representatives, Park Ji-sung of Manchester United (pictured) and Lee Chung-yong of Bolton Wanderers, finished their last bit of action of 2010 for their respective clubs with strong indicators of their confident mood and good form going into the 2011 Asian Cup in Qatar.
With two of the Boxing Day games already postponed due to foul weather, the nature of both games, being played in the frozen north of England, was already a tenuous one. But both games played out as expected and saw solid two-nil wins for both teams, welcome Christmas gifts for Manchester United who now sit atop the Premier League table and for Bolton Wanderers who now sit sixth, rebounding from their defeat against Sunderland the previous matchday. Today, it was against Steve Bruce’s same Sunderland team that Park Ji-sung and Manchester United found some cause for holiday cheer. United, despite concerns about their intermittent schedule over the past few weeks due to postponement, were quick out of the gates and it took no less than five minutes for the Red Devils to register their first goal — an incisive run by Ryan Giggs found Wayne Rooney out wide who crossed to Dimitar Berbatov; the Bulgarian, who was not closed down quick enough by a static Black Cat defense, headed forcefully into Craig Gordon’s near post. Park often found himself in the thick of good passing moves throughout both halves, starting on the right but seemingly given carte blanche by Sir Alex Ferguson to wander all over the pitch and switch flanks with Giggs, closing down players and occasionally dropping deep to maintain possession. The dominant possession by Manchester United and their high pressure midfield paid dividends in the second half, when, after being unable to convert a previous effort that rebounded off the sidebar, Berbatov had his shot deflected into the net by Anton Ferdinand in the 57th minute. It was slightly fortuitous but nothing less than United deserved after a host of earlier chances. Sunderland were subsequently unable to convert some sporadic moments of pressure into anything particularly threatening and United saw out a comfortable two-nil lead to close the game and remain unbeaten for the 2010 season and send-off Park with a winning mentality.
A similar Northern encounter saw Bolton eager to bounce back from a disappointing loss against Sunderland and win at home against a tricky West Bromwich Albion side. The hosts, however, were under sustained pressure, epitomized by the attacking verve of Peter Odemwingie, whose pace looked to unsettle Zat Knight and Gary Cahill. It was the Wanderers, however, that took the lead when against the run of play, a good one-two between Matt Taylor and Lee Chung-yong saw the latter accelerate past the WBA back four, round goalkeeper Scott Carson and calmly cut back to Taylor who slotted easily past the arms of the hapless Carson with five minutes before the half-time break. The second half saw West Brom valiantly try to pull a goal back: Odemiwingie being the chief culprit for the Baggies when he was unable to convert a one-on-one opportunity in the 68th minute. A solid all-around attacking performance from Lee was applauded widely by the Bolton faithful when he was substituted to a standing ovation in the 70th minute. Thereafter, Elmander was able to secure the points by converting off his own rebounded attempt to Klasnic. Bolton climb up to sixth in the EPL table and continue their impressive season, Lee helping to lead a charge with a tally of six assists in all competitions.
Highlights of Park Ji-sung’s and Lee Chung-yong’s matchday contributions are below: